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Posted by Egge

With the exception of a few quirky first-person shooters like Crysis 1 and Metro 2033, Blue Byte's Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom is the first of the relatively recent big budget games I've bought which has "PC" written all over it. This is a deliberately paced, mouse-dependent, menu-heavy, graphics-intense, old school realtime strategy game of the kind which can only really exist and find an audience on the personal computer. Better yet, it's an unexpectedly good sequel to one of my favorite strategy classics of all time (Settlers 2). Despite some notable innovations and streamlining attempts the fundamental gameplay of Settlers 7 sticks close enough to the time-honored conventions of the series that the nostalgia center of my brain gets activated.

The highly impressive new visuals only sweeten the deal, and given the sheer amount of detailed and advanced effects available on maxed settings this might just be the single best-looking strategy game I've ever seen. At least compared to other strategy series, graphics actually have some real gameplay implications here since the simple pleasure of passively watching your tiny little computerized people go about their business in an ever-growing settlement has always been such an important part of the Settlers experience.

I think it's fair to say that anyone who has ever owned an Atari 2600 will have a hard time not falling in love with the sheer retro bliss that is Bit Trip Runner and Bit Trip Beat. These titles from California-based developer Gaijin Games perfectly capture a certain unmistakable visual style from our beloved platform while adding a new layer of slick and distinctly modern (or at least Rez-like) rhythm-based gameplay on top of what would otherwise be some fairly traditional side-scrolling action. Thus, like most good retro-style releases these days the cleverly designed BTR and BTB succeed in both having their cake and eating it by simultaneously evoking a bygone era (or several, since the games have some strong 8-bit console influences as well) without slavishly anchoring the experience in mere nostalgia or obviously outdated mechanics.

The well-received stand-alone expansion to Radon Labs' old school RPG Drakensang has a very curious release history outside of its German-speaking continental homelands. To the best of my knowledge, the English version first became available through various North American digital download stores (strictly region-locked to keep us filthy Europeans out, by the way) and only later came to the UK. Now it finally appears to have reached other parts of the non-Germanic world as a proper domestic release rather than being imported from various other places...

...or has it? For the longest time, River of Time was listed as "To Be Released" on only one of the major Swedish online stores for games, music and movies. Since the price was a mere € 5 I strongly suspected that they didn't actually know anything about the game and whether it would come out here at all. Still, I "pre-ordered" it just in case it would eventually show up and, sure enough, today it finally arrived in my mailbox without warning. However, the same online retailer has now labelled the game "Temporarily Out of Stock"...which in this context usually means it's never going to be available for purchase from that store ever again. And as far as I can see the game has still not been made available for purchase to European customers on Steam, GamersGate or similar services.

The whole thing is just plain weird, and with that kind of publishing "support" it's perhaps no wonder that classic-style RPGs from non-indie developers are few and far between...